In 1974, the Commanding General, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing,
Major General Gourley presented a Golden Retriever to the 1st MAW Band. The
puppy was subsequently adopted as the Band's official mascot and given the name
Chopper. He is an official 'Marine' with an enlistment contract, dog tags, SSN,
SRB, and uniforms. Unfortunately, Chopper
suffered an untimely death at the wheels of an Iwakuni taxi. Upon hearing the
news, the CG presented the band with another puppy from the same litter,
subsequently named Chopper II.
In 1978, when the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing Band from Iwakuni
merged with the 3d Marine Division Band from Okinawa, it was re-designated as
the III Marine Amphibious Band and assigned to Camp Foster, Okinawa. Chopper II
received orders along with the rest of the band members and came along. Fast
forward to April, 1989; SSgt Chopper II is the subject of a formal Relief and
Appointment ceremony with Chopper III. Following Chopper II's passing, his
remains were taken to Naha and cremated. His remains currently reside in the
III MEF Band facility in a specially prepared 105mm shell casing along with his
burial urn, Dress Blues, and Service Record Book.
On June2002, GySgt Chopper III ailing and in poor health,
was retired and had to be put down. The Band Officer at the time, CWO Jim Ford,
screened several applicants from Karing Kennels to find a candidate that could
fill GySgt Chopper III's 'shoes' and represent the III MEF Band as its mascot.
Historically, Chopper has been a full-bred Golden Retriever, keeping with the
original Chopper. After careful consideration, a puppy retriever/collie mix was
chosen and adopted as Private Chopper IV. On 21 June 2002, Private Chopper IV
assumed the duties as III MEF Band Mascot. Once Pvt Chopper IV learned to make
proper head calls outside, he was promoted to Private First Class. He received
several promotions and eventually earned the rank of Staff Sergeant. Sadly,
SSgt Chopper IV passed away during surgery the day after his retirement on 25 April 2013.
A full-bred golden retriever puppy, Chopper V, was selected
in November 2012 by the III MEF Band members. He was promoted to the rank of
Private First Class in May of 2014, and then a year later he was promoted again to Lance Corporal in May 2015. LCpl Chopper happily follows in the paw prints of the
III MEF Band mascots before him.